Issues & Themes: 
  • N/A

A short manifesto of collective resistance to police oppression in the wake of the historic 1977 raid on the Montreal gay bar Truxx. In 1976 the City of Montréal launched a pre-Olympic cleanup of gays and prostitutes, a new wave of persecution that shocked the gay community out of its complacency, both francophone and anglophone, and whole-scale organizing started up again, energized by the simple exigency of self-defense. The police responded in October 1977 by swooping with machine-guns into the Stanley Street bar Truxx, and made the largest mass arrest since the October Crisis. 146 men were forcibly given VD tests (a Q-tip punitively inserted into the urethra), crammed incommunicado all night into tiny cells with standing room only, and charged the next day under the familiar vague and discriminatory bawdy-house and gross indecency laws. That night, 3000 protesters blocked the streets of what was then the West End Peel-Stanley gay ghetto for several hours, and as the Journal de Montréal headline screamed, “Les Homos et la police: c’est la guerre!” No more than 300 demonstrators had ever shown up for a gay lib demo before, and two months later an embarrassed and still idealistic PQ government (only one year in office) passed Loi 88, the first human rights legislation protecting lesbians and gays anywhere in the world (Norway joined Quebec in 1981). The charges hung over the heads of the accused for several years thereafter before finally being dropped. Truxx appeared the year following the events and narrated them simply and directly. Made on a shoestring and transferred from then rare video to 16mm, the film aimed at bolstering organizing in the gay community around the issue. Sutherland used still photos, a voice-over, and interviews with two victims and two activists, concluded with footage of subsequent demonstrations. The editing and pace are rough, and the dubbing is cheap—two interviews are in English, two in French, but only the English version was ever released because of lack of funds. The effect of the two interviews with victims, one an anglophone musician and the other a francophone bicycle repairer (a division of labour that did not always appeal to francophone spectators), was stunning for tearful audiences who saw their communal experience and anger on the screen for the first time. The film holds up well a quarter century later—a reminder for many that little has changed in police-community relations in Montreal as elsewhere—but has not been available for many years.